Saturday, October 1, 2022

Professional Licensing, Public Records, & Disciplinary Actions

I've now been through 10 renewal cycles with my massage license. If I could go back and change one thing on my initial application, I wouldn't have taken "Full Name" so literally and I would have left my middle name out. (It's nothing too terrible, but not something I'd usually share with the general public.)

One thing that might surprise you is that, with the exception of your social security number and credit card information, the information submitted is *not* confidential.

Per the current individual license application:
"PUBLIC RECORD:  This application is a public record for purposes of the Maine Freedom of Access Law (1 MRSA §401 et seq).  Public records must be made available to any person upon request.  This application for licensure is a public record and information supplied as part of the application (other than social security number and credit card information) is public information.  Other licensing records to which this information may later be transferred will also be considered public records.  Names, license numbers and mailing addresses listed on or submitted as part of this application will be available to the public and may be posted on our website. 

SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER:  The following statement is made pursuant to the Privacy Act of 1974 (§7(B)).  Disclosure of your Social Security Number Is mandatory.  Solicitation of your Social Security Number is solely for tax administration purposes, pursuant to 35 MRSA §175 as authorized by the Tax Reform Act of 1975 (42 USC §405(C)(2)(C)(1)).  Your Social Security Number will be disclosed to the State Tax Assessor or an authorized agent for use in determining filing obligations and tax liability pursuant to Title 36 of the Maine Revised Statutes.  No further use will be made of your Social Security Number and it shall be treated as confidential tax information pursuant to 36 MRSA §191."
Upon your application being approved, your name (whatever and however you write it on the application), your mailing address's city/state/zip code, and your phone number may become accessible to the public. Your listing will also include your state professional license number, status (usually Active or Failed to Renew), expiration date, and how you received your license (schooling, etc). 

Massage therapy as a licensed profession in Maine falls under the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation's Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation:

"The Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation (OPOR) and its licensing boards and programs are established for the sole purpose of protecting the public by licensing qualified individuals in each professional area and by imposing discipline on licensed individuals and entities to prevent harm to the public."
The direct link to the Massage Therapy Licensure office is here:
"Massage Therapy Licensure was established to provide for the regulation of persons offering massage therapy services, in order to safeguard the public health, safety, and welfare, and to protect the public from incompetent and unauthorized persons in the State of Maine.

The primary responsibilities of the Office is to review and approve qualified applicants for licensure as a licensed massage therapists[sic], to promulgate rules as necessary, to investigate complaints, and to take appropriate disciplinary action for noncompliance with current laws and rules."
The office's website provides a handful of useful links and resources for both practitioners and consumers. The general public is able to search for individuals, companies, disciplinary actions, courses, and course providers here: 

Ideally, the database would only ever need to be used to verify licensure.

Yours truly, however, is a nosy, curious person.

I have used the "Search Disciplinary Actions" feature to explore what sorts of cases have come up over the last few years. I was unsurprised but still disappointed that there were, indeed, cases of alleged misconduct on the part of licensed massage therapists. Another interesting incidence involved therapists not disclosing they had convictions prior to applying for licensure, or they had been convicted of misdemeanors while holding a professional license -- even if the misdemeanor had nothing to do with their profession. Such misdemeanors may include: driving with a suspended license, disorderly conduct, theft under $1,000, assault, and operating under the influence. 

In exploring the related rules and regulations, I learned that if you are ever convicted of a misdemeanor, you must report the conviction to your professional licensing board within 10 days of the conviction

Some consequences include fines, license probation, and license suspension. Some cases are consent agreements between the State and the massage therapist regarding probationary actions. Others include highly detailed accounts of evidence and testimonies given at adjudicatory hearings. 

And, friends, some of these details and pieces of evidence come from text messages and conversations within the therapist's office. They come from therapists failing to uphold the highest standards of professionalism, including avoiding dual-relationships. Draping -- respecting a client's need for privacy, modesty, security, and emotional expression -- must be impeccable at all times. Detailed intake forms, SOAP notes, and incident reports need to be created, taken, and kept secure.

Finally, we need to hold each other accountable.

If ever you meet a practitioner who doesn't abide by these ethical ideals and it can't be resolved with a polite conversation, you have a moral obligation to report them to their licensing board. If you can't do it for your own sake, then do it to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the rest of the public.

Ignorance of the Laws & Rules is no excuse. Blaming emotional and physical isolation due to the pandemic is no excuse. Pointing fingers like a schoolkid, saying, "But they're doing it and they're not in trouble!" is no excuse.

Protect your integrity and reputation -- for both your sake and the sake of our industry. Be lawful, ethical, and professional in order to be successful.